Man who fired sawn-off shotgun in Dublin park avoids jail

CourtsBy Sunday World

A man who claimed he was suicidal after gardai arrested him for firing a sawn off shotgun off in his local park has been spared a jail sentence.

Patrick Duff (49) was wearing white latex gloves with his hood up and had the gun hidden in his jeans when gardaí stopped him a short time later. He was very aggressive towards the officers and struggled with them while they tried to arrest him. He later head-butted one of them in the face.

He told gardaí he was a member of the IRA and claimed that he had just picked up the gun in the park and had fired test shots after checking there was no one around. Duff said the gloves were in the bag with the weapon and he just put them on because he wasn't thinking.

Duff of Ballyfermot Drive, Ballyfermot, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of a firearm on Ballyfermot Parade on February 5, 2015.

Duff said in garda interview that he was depressed and had wanted to committed suicide. He said he had “fled in fright” when he saw the gardaí arrive at the park after they were alerted to the shots being fired.

Dean Kelly BL, prosecuting told Judge Melanie Greally that gardaí didn't accept Duff's explanation.

Judge Greally said the court had difficulty dealing with the case because she said the “circumstances of the offence are not consistent with a credible suicide attempt”.

She accepted there was a history of severe depression and said his record of previous convictions is limited. She suspended a three year prison term on condition that Duff continues to attend an addition response programme and to abstain from alcohol.

The court heard that gardaí had notified Duff of a threat to his life in August 2014 but said there was no new or fresh information since.

Duff told the court he didn't remember getting that notification from the gardaí but admitted to Judge Greally he was most probably drunk at the time because he was an alcoholic.

The Probation Service had previously asked for the case to be adjourned to allow officers there to investigate Duff's claim that he was suicidal that day.
Judge Greally said: “He hasn't managed to persuade either the gardaí or the probation officers that this is what he was about at the time”.

Keith Spencer BL, defending handed in a number of medical reports which he said detailed Duff's depression and outlined episodes of suicidal ideation.

He said his client strongly refuted a claim he had the gun because of “issues his son had”. “He couldn't be stronger in his instructions that he had it for his own suicide,” Mr Spencer said.

Garda Daniel Matthewson said the gun was examined and found to be an over and under double barrel sawn off shotgun.

He agreed with Mr Spencer that Duff co-operated once he had sobered up but claimed he couldn't remember head-butting the garda.

Gda Matthewson accepted that Duff apologised to him during interview and in court. He claimed he had paid €500 for the gun.

He confirmed he has two previous convictions dating backing to 1981 and 1987 and has not come to garda attention since.

Mr Spencer said his client was first treated for depression in 2008 and then again in 2011 when he had tried to take his own life. Counsel said there was also a history of alcoholism.

He said Duff's feelings and emotions of depression overwhelmed him that day and he tried to take his own life.

By Sonya McLean